Taekwondo: a discipline for life

My  taekwondo school, the Australian Martial Arts Academy, has been in operation for 35 years this month. I’ve been training there for six years and have a few ideas about its staying power.

I was asked recently whether taekwondo gave me a ‘workout’. The quick answer is yes! But you can answer that question on a few levels. 

As a 1980s teenager I did my share of cardio fitness aerobic classes (New Body, Step, anyone?) Taekwondo does that and more. We drip sweat! Depending on the teacher, outside air temperature or any other variable (and the Grand Master can be unforgiving in those weeks after Christmas), expect 20­–40 minutes of heart-pounding exercise. And we do it to music! I’ve never figured out who puts together the workout tracks, but hats off. They’re great.

While kicks are adjusted for belt colour, everybody is pushing it. Powerful repetitions of a white belt kick can be as exhausting as a senior belt kick. We add technique onto technique, building up combinations of punches, kicks, spins, jumps and occasionally gymnastics moves (who would have guessed that learning cartwheels as a kid would be so useful now!) 

We all train together. As a beginner, I learned so much from the black belts’ patient tuition in class. I love giving back now, and helping others is one of the best ways to remind yourself of the techniques again.

The sheer pleasure in ‘getting’ a technique is something you’d never get in boot camp. I remember my incredulity in first learning a double turning kick: this is a turning kick on one leg, immediately followed up with a second kick with the other. What? How can I bring up that leg before I’ve even landed the first? It’s now second nature. And you move on, learning and applying more difficult skills. It’s impossible not to smile watching someone master something new. And the breadth of the curriculum makes this workout different. In any class you could be learning kicks, self-defence moves, sparring….or meditating.

I was once captain of my school tennis team. While I still think it is a beautiful game, those moments when I revelled in my control and skill seemed too rare. In taekwondo, you don’t need a partner or an opponent. You’re competing against yourself. Showing up, training, perfecting a technique will only matter to you, in the end.

And the real difference? We’re asked to reflect on who we are, and where we’re going. Setting goals in life as well as sport is the backbone of Australian Martial Arts’ operation. It’s working for me.

Happy 35 years, AMA.



The idea of home

Where is home? What is it? Does it convey a house, a city, a country?

The Oxford defines it as ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household’; the Macquarie says it is your ‘fixed residence’. When we’re kids, I think it means ‘where our parents live’. I grew up in Hong Kong. Friends came and went.  We lived in four different houses. It was a transient life but always ‘home.’

The German word ‘heimat’ describes another kind of home. It has no direct English translation but a friend described it as that ‘place of one’s first memories.’ Although Hong Kong will always be home in that sense, I think ‘home’ is inseparable from belonging. I can’t replicate the innocence of my childhood days in Hong Kong. I don’t belong there anymore.

When I came back to live in Australia in June 1986, I marked the immigration entry card as returning ‘permanently’. The time I’d been away was 10 years, one month. I’ll always remember the official at Brisbane airport who stamped my passport. He looked up at me that day, looked at the 16 year old travelling alone who had left her family for the first time. He said ‘Welcome home’.

I had a love-hate relationship with Sydney for years. It’s a bitch of a city to get around. Real estate is prohibitive, public transport is wanting, its fads and fashions shallow. Even after my three children were born here, I felt no strong ties.

A few years ago, I was working in the city and crossed the Anzac Bridge daily on a bus. If I faced west, I could look across Iron Cove and see Glebe’s parks and terrace houses where I spent my student days, Fisher Library at Sydney University, the gothic elegance of its Main Quadrangle, the church spire marking Annandale where we lived as newly-weds, and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital behind the first house we bought.

I could see the passing of those twenty or so years in that view. Sydney felt like home.

What does home mean to you?


Millennial fatigue

I just disappeared down a rabbit hole. Sales, business coaching, marketing, sales, Snap Chat, Zoella, millennials, sales, vlogging.  Anything you can read, you can read to screen. Better. Faster.

I learnt that blogging is passé. If you want to, you can write it down later, from the vlog. There’s your blog. In words. But it’s not as good, is it?

So nobody reads, video content is all but some video content is worse than none. If you’re not onto the next big thing, you’re doomed, it’s too late, you’ll miss it. Don’t miss out.

Vlogging 101: Where to Vlog and Why it Matters: When you write a blog, all you have to consider is the best way to get your message across using good old-fashion words, sentences and paragraphs (Blogging Edge, Vlogging 101: Where to Vlog and Why it Matters, 19 March 2014, UK, http://bloggingedge.com/blog/where-to-vlog-and-why-it-matters/)

I get change. I love the new media for connecting, for selling, for messages. I consume it. I’m going to make a video or two myself. Stay tuned.

But I feel as though I need to sit in a library for a few minutes.


Who’s with me?